Doxa's Response to Racism and Injustice
As Seattle continues to flood the national news scene, we find ourselves at the epicenter of a significant historical moment. God’s word has much to say about matters of race, systemic oppression, and the damaging effects of prejudice. We want to continue a conversation with you. We say “continue” because, while this isn’t a brand-new topic to Doxa, we know this will be an ongoing conversation through the weeks, months, and years ahead. Counter to much of the current cultural response, we are committed to one that is gospel informed.
For those who are newer to Doxa, we’d like to give you some context for these conversations in our church. During the summer of our second year as a church, we agreed that one of Doxa’s priorities would be to have a variety of voices and skin colors speaking into the lives of our members. Each year we have sought to hear from voices that could help shape our involvement in areas where we were weak, less informed, and desired to grow as overseers. As one example, we invited Pastor Leonce Crump to speak about power, privilege, and the gospel; it marked the beginning of a journey we consider ourselves still on. You can still listen to that message here.
Another memorable step was in April 2018 when we took a multicultural team to MLK50 conference in Memphis, TN to reflect on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s tragic death. Its purpose was to create an opportunity for Christians to reflect on the state of racial unity in the church and the culture. It created an occasion to reflect on where Christians have been and look ahead to where we must go as we pursue racial unity amid tremendous tension.
We shared the content from that conference with our whole staff and elder team. It has served as a prophetic word for us along the way as we shared our personal stories about race and learned from one another’s life experiences. At that time, we inventoried the tangible and intangible obstacles for people of color to participate at Doxa and who desired to pursue leadership development and have been working to address them.
Another key moment in this discussion was in 2018 when we labored to establish twelve values that would serve as filters for what we do as a church, and signposts to create the culture of what we want to be as a local church. One of those values is directed to those who suffer from injustice. Understanding this as one of our values will help frame what you read below.
Along the way we have found discussions of race require humility and active resistance to debate, dehumanize, and demonize others. Our leaders are holding a few things in tension that we want to acknowledge upfront:
1. We are limited. As a majority white male leadership team, we have real limitations in our ability to lead through this, and certainly can’t do so in a vacuum. We are assuming a posture of listening and learning and want our engagement and leadership to be thoughtful, wise, and led by the Holy Spirit.
2. Silence is a response in itself. We risk doing more damage by waiting too long to say and do the “right thing.” This isn’t the time for rash or reactive decisions from the Church, but people in the Church are asking questions that deserve prayerful responses and action.
3. God’s Word is not silent. In response to these issues facing our world, Paul says, we are ambassadors of Christ, the Word made flesh, and agents of reconciliation. As such we are all responsible for speaking into and taking action on these issues because of the hope we have in Jesus and through the power of the Spirit.
4. We're in this together. We invite you to listen, ask, discuss, participate, and wrestle along with us on these issues. We also ask you to commit with us to not contribute to the division that has already gained so much momentum. Our nation, local community, and yes, even our Doxa church family, are divided on what, when, why, and how change should come about. We will disappoint some by doing too little, too late, and aggravate others by doing anything at all. We have no assumptions that everyone will agree on how best to move forward, but to wait for that would surely result in no action at all. And that is not an option.
In light of these tensions, we want to remind ourselves of what’s true:
God is mighty enough to overturn the most intimidating strongholds and is relentless in His pursuit of justice. The Bible is the story of the people He loves being freed from slavery to follow Him. It was true of Israel against Egypt, it is true for us Christians against sin, and it is true for people of color against racism and abuse of power in our country.
God is loving and merciful enough to soften and restore the hardest heart. The Bible is the story of broken people failing and being restored into new creations by God’s work on their behalf. It was true of Israel’s faithlessness in the wilderness, it is true for each of us traitors who trust in Christ, and it’s true for white people confused and paralyzed by toxic shame and guilt.
In January of 2019, we clarified and presented 12 values that would shape our culture as a church, (found here). It’s in the truths above that we see Doxa’s opportunity to uphold our value, “We give voice and resources to those who suffer from injustice.” Voice and resource. Words and Actions. Let’s talk about ways we see this playing out.
The staff and elder team are reading the book, The Color of Compromise, by Jemar Tisby, and using staff development time for the foreseeable future to focus on listening and learning around this topic as well as other areas of discipleship.
A local Black church leader has offered to help our leadership team think through Doxa’s long-term gospel-informed response to racism and injustice and will be advising us in the weeks ahead.
Our 2020 (and beyond) Voices sermon series will continue to include a diversity of speakers who will give us fresh perspectives on this topic.
We will provide space for two types of conversations:
- Breakfast Club – enjoy a meal (or maybe Zoom screen in the short-term) with someone who doesn’t look like you to share your personal story through the lens of race. Grow in your awareness of other people’s life experiences and (hopefully) empathy for them.
- Judgement Free Zone – a safe space to share and work through your raw, unfiltered thoughts, feelings, and fears around issues of race. We want to learn together how to express that which we may have hidden inside because it could be unpopular, politically incorrect, or potentially instigate conflict or retaliation.
Doxa is committed to:
- Recognize and participate in Juneteenth, Friday, June 19. Learn more by visiting our Juneteenth at Doxa page and remembering this important moment in our nation’s history.
- Provide recommended content that can be used in MC and DNA groups, family dinner conversations, and your own personal learning.
- Coach and equip MC and DNA group leaders to facilitate difficult conversations in their groups.
- Provide a list of organizations to follow and partner with as they serve and advocate in this space.
Our long-term vision for Doxa is simply this: a church that reflects, from the top down, the racial and ethnic diversity of our community and to bear witness to the Glory of God in Jesus Christ.
In closing, I wanted to share a brief story from the MLK50 conference:
A white family, a mother and daughter, were shopping in the grocery store; the little white girl saw another little girl who was black. As unfiltered and innocent as kids can be, she asked in the aisle as they passed by, “Mama, why is her skin darker than ours?” This wise saint tenderly responded back, “Because sweetheart, we are all made in the image of God, and He is so glorious no one color would suffice.”
I love this idea. It hangs on a plaque in my home today.
It can’t suffice, church. We shouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the full glory of God’s united image through His bride, the church. What a glorious picture we get of the church in heaven, where every tribe, nation, and tongue are gathered to worship the King together! Unencumbered by prejudice, bias, and systemic racism. Freed and healed from generations of sin and pain. The best of each of us on display on into eternity…
It’s that image in Revelation that gives us this vision for God’s long-term plan. The leadership at Doxa refuses to pretend to have all the right answers and do all the right things NOW or give into the social pressures of the ever-shifting sand of public opinion. That’s a fool’s game. We are five years old as a church, and our team’s journey on this topic started four years ago. We are in this for the long-haul. Our public response on racial injustice is not done in an effort to fit in, appear “woke” on social media, appease our members, or to grow our church attendance. We are releasing this statement because this moment matters. It matters to people of color, it matters to our leaders, and it certainly matters to our God.
Doxa family, join us in giving voice and resource to those who suffer from injustice.
Written by Tim Patton on behalf of the Doxa Elders: Jeff Vanderstelt, Alex Ghioni, Dave Cox, Donald Zimmerman, Josh Ricciardi, Derek LaFontaine, Nathan Jelovich